The purest pleasure of watching test cricket is seeing dot ball after dot ball elapse as the plot thickens like an invisible noose tightening around the neck. With Dravid the noose was visible and so enthralling. If it were a Tendulkar the superhuman aura of the batsman would have made us think the noose does not matter until it snaps the neck, and a second later we'd switch off the TV. With Dravid you saw someone battle the plot, the bowler and everyother dimension of cricket. Dravid embodies all that I had heard about test cricket prior to the emergence of the television era. He has probably listened to a lot of radio commentaries, read up on the history of cricket and as a result inherently embodies that vision accurately. In a way it is sad that Dravid played in the era of TV. In a different era where batsmen lived in the minds of public because of the way radio commentators described them - Dravid would have been a colossus.
If Dravid had played in an another era unoccupied by Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman - he would have been recognized as a Gavaskar 2.0 who figured out how to play ODIs. In this era however, he allowed himself to be contrasted with players who were as core to the team as Dravid. Players who are very different from Dravid. He was part of an ideal combination that could not have been planned for deliberately. It was more of a happenstance, a stroke of luck. The Ganguly - Dravid relationship to me is as close to James T. Kirk and Spock as it can get in the cricketing world. Ganguly representing the human condition in full cry with all its associated emotions and failings. Dravid on the other hand was a student of cold logic. A robot, a thinker, a calculator - a methodical operator. A captain and a first officer combination that ultimate cricket fantasies are made of.
I look forward to Dravid's autobiography. I am sure he will write it himself instead of someone like Bhogle vomitting all over the book in the name of ghost writing. I am curious to know what he thought of Greg Chappell. I have a bet going on that he was more in agreement with Greg and more in disagreement with the general public. But it has to wait for another day. Dravid's captaincy and the combination with Greg had so much potential. The combustion of Indian cricket in the Greg period and traditional confusion that exists in India over ODI performance Vs Test performance - nipped in the bud - an era where Dravid could have gone on to be a ruthless effecient captain along the lines of Waugh.
I don't know which memory of Dravid, I'll cherish the most. There aren't many innings of Dravid that I've not watched. I remember his first test century in Johanessburg like yesterday. He should have made that a 'century in both innings' but at least he ended up almost setting up a test match victory (his statemates couldnt get rid of the tail). That was the first time I saw the Indian team with a realistic chance of winning a test abroad. His first ODI century in Chepauk was great for its thrilling hunt and tragic end. The 78 in Bridgetown against Ambrose and Walsh was an unspoken masterpiece. The 4 consecutive centuries were an absolute joy. His 39 against Australia in 01 Mumbai was an excellent innings cut short by Warne. I almsot cried then. After the Slater incident we had to win it. That he became Warne's bunny again was tragic. Mostly Dravid will be remembered for being emotionless enough to be perceived as a second fiddle. He represented the purest emotion which dictates that you can achieve anything if you dont mind being outside the spotlight. People needed to be reminded that he hit centuries when Ganguly and Tendulkar hit 180+ in ODIs. His exit was as un-glamorous as it comes. A quiet quick goodbye that has the 'kanden seethaiyai' type opening sentence that Kamban would have been proud of.
He exits the game when he is still the among top 2 batsman in the team with no viable replacement in sight. Gavaskar's was the last such retirement. I guess when he says he leaves the game with sadness he means not being able to win a test series in South Africa and Australia. Surely a dissapointing blot for an ambitous cricket such as he. When he says he is proud - I guess he is referring to the fact that he is the only captain after Wadekar to win an away series against WI and Eng in an identical back-to-back fashion. Or to the fact that he went where no man had gone before (this includes Lara) in that one-man-show that was the 2003 Adelaide test.
I wonder if Waugh will write the foreword of his autobiography. Because Dravid wrote the foreword of Waugh's. It had a statement that reflected Dravid's own identity: "Steve’s legacy is hard to define, but I will remember him because he gave grit a good name. He proved that it is not only the pretty player who can capture the imagination, but also the tough and determined. Suddenly these qualities became as vital, as spoken about, as silken grace and sublime timing. He was leathery tough, played the game aggressively, and would do whatever it took within the rules to win. He built a team that has achieved legendary status, raised the level of young cricketers who played under him, and also embraced the traditions of the game and highlighted their importance. His ruthless style, combined with a passion for the game, has won him a staggering, almost unrivalled, following in India".
Lastly. Ilayaraja's music is often remembered for a nuanced silence he introduces to the unsuspecting listener. Yes, that subtle silence between interludes. You may not notice it. But the song wouldn't be the same if not for those moments. Do you remember what Dravid retorted when Donald snarled at him during that magnificent innings of 83 in the ODI tri-series finals? You don't. Because it doesn't exist. I don't think Dravid played a better ODI innings than that one. Dravid will be remembered for the strokes he refused to play, the words he refused to say and the actions he did not do. You might've missed those moments of silence. But without it Dravid's magnum opus career would have looked less elegant. And from walking away on his own after feathering that Chris Lewis ball at Lords to his retirement speech. Dravid was all elegance.